Stars: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Bynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit
Writer-director Emil Vogt’s second feature is a slow-burning and genuinely unsettling sci-fi horror. Seven-year-old Norwegian girl Ida (Fløttum) has just moved with her family, mum (Petersen), dad (Svartveit) and severely autistic older sister Anna (Ramstad) to a new concrete apartment block. Ida resents the amount of attention Anna receives from her mother and is prone to playing cruel tricks on her sister. Out playing, Ida meets Ben (Ashraf) the bullied loner who displays mild telekinetic powers by making a falling bottle top lid veer off into the other direction, much to Ida’s delight. Later, when reluctantly taking Anna out to play with her, Ida meets Aisha (Asheim), who evidently has some sort of psychic connection with her sister. As the quartet spend more time together Anna begins to express herself verbally, while Ben’s increased telekinetic abilities take a very dark turn. This feels more a Nordic grounded take on Stephen King than the dark poetry of Jack Clayton’s 1961 similarly-titled film. As with the recent ‘Playground’, Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s camera mostly stays at child’s level and deploys a narrow focus to blur out anything in their immediate vicinity, while making good use of the stark, sun-dappled eerily deserted apartment block. Vogt who co-wrote Joachim Trier’s ‘The Worst Person in the World’ elicits remarkable performances from his young cast, the remarkable Fløttum especially, while ably steering them through some dark material. The story also works as a fantastical allegory about how children learn to navigate their world with the gradual encroachment of the supernatural into their world elegantly handled.
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